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Riding Lessons [Paperback]

Sara Gruen
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Book by Gruen, Sara

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
"Are you ready?" says Roger as he gives me a leg up, and I laugh, because I've never been so ready in all my life. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointment May 19 2004
By A Customer
I bought this book strictly on the jacket synopsis. It appealed to me because I used to ride competitively and love fiction. Boy was I disappointed.
Annemarie is such a broken character that I found her unpalatable. At 38, she sneaks out of the house in the morning so she doesn't have to face the father that she knows is dying? Shallow should be this woman's middle name. It is very difficult to root for her or find satisfaction with the novel when she discovers what she thinks is contentment in the last few pages.
The equine stuff is fairly believable, although the constant references to the "stablehands" like they were second class citizens wore thin. The people that keep a barn running and successful are the people that Annemarie shuns and is revolted that her daughter associates with. I find this inconsistent with my experience.
There are several questions left unanswered (why is Dan, the veterinarian living in a condemned-sounding trailer?).
This is a book that makes you think that you, too, can be a novelist if this is where the bar is set.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent character portrayal May 12 2004
By A Customer
In Riding Lessons, Sara Gruen gives us a challenging heroine, one who is emotionally stunted yet remarkably sympathetic. We first meet Annemarie as a world-class rider at age 18, possessed with herself, her beloved horse, Harry, and the expectations that others, particularly her domineering father, have for her career. After an accident that destroys Harry and nearly destroys her, she cannot face riding again, and equally cannot face her father and those she believes, rightly or wrongly, expect her to live up to her promise as an equestrienne. So, after a remarkable recovery, she sets about proving herself in a life entirely divorced from her family. Twenty years later, that life falls apart, and Annemarie learns that her father has ALS. The remainder of the novel plays out her growing awareness of herself, amid many missteps, as she reconciles the person she has become with the life she abandoned.
Gruen writes the book from Annemarie's point of view, allowing us to see among the heroine's many faults her understanding that the weakness are her own. We feel her struggle to reach out to her dying father and her pain at being unable to bring herself to do so. We see what's wrong with her handling of her daughter, yet we understand, and we appreciate her willingness to accept her role in the contentious relationship and try to change.
And then there are the horses. Without sentimentalizing, Gruen brings to life the powerful feelings that come as horse and rider learn to respond to one another. Gruen's writing, and particularly her dialog, is smooth and natural and sometimes playful. She gives us the details we need to understand a scene or a character and lets us react-with tears and occasional laughter for this reader. This is a book to be savored, one I'm sure I'll reread before long.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding crossover novel for teens April 25 2004
What's harder on a woman? Loving horses? Or men? For Annemarie Zimmer Aldrich both are equally heartbreaking.
At age 18, Annemarie oozes with confidence and talent as an equestrian athlete. She and her beloved horse Harry are soaring to the top of the eventing world, and riding a path -- carefully chosen by her overbearing Austrian Pappa -- toward the Olympics. During a final jump at competition, Harry shatters his leg and lands on top of Annemarie, crushing her and their future together. Harry's injuries are too massive to mend and he's put out of his misery on the spot. But Annemarie's misery just begins as she's pieced back together physically, yet remains broken emotionally.
She swears off horses and riding, for a life with Roger and their daughter Eva, in Minnesota far from her parents' New Hampshire horse farm. She earns a degree in technical writing and buries herself in a career editing software manuals to avoid the pain of coming to terms with her huge losses.
Twenty years after the accident it all comes crashing down. She is laid off at her job. Roger leaves her for a younger woman. Fifteen-year old Eva hates her. And Pappa is dying of ALS. Her life in shambles and harboring a rather self-absorbed sense of obligation to Mutti and Pappa's desperate situation, she drags Eva with her back home to the horse farm.
Instead of finding refuge, Annemarie sets off on a collision course with her past, present, and future, which happen to be contained in the body of a horse she names Hurrah -- who's almost identical to her Harry -- and the heart of Dan, the man she abandoned along with her passion in that other life. But she can't have either of them until she comes to terms with the pieces of her own shattered soul. So she smothers herself in failure.
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By Monika
Annemarie Zimmer was an Olympic contender at the young age of 18 when a tragic riding accident left her severely injured and emotionally shaken. Her extremely rare brindled horse, a Hanoverian named Highland Harry, was killed in the fall. Twenty years later, when this story picks up, she hasn't ridden since. But then her new life comes unraveled in almost every place - she loses her job, her teenage daughter drops out of school, her husband leaves her, and her father is diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig's disease) - and Annemarie returns to her parents' farm and is forced to confront her past. And when a new horse unexpectedly enters her life, one whose unusual markings bring back painful memories of the deceased Harry, Annemarie's obsession with discovering the horse's identity leads her down a path that is both intriguing and frightening at the same time.
The story sucked me in immediately. This, Gruen's first novel, is an absolute masterpiece. The story is narrated by the main character, Annemarie, and also told in present tense. This combination lends the book a liveliness and immediacy that fully engages the reader. In fact, I read the whole book in one day, staying up very late at night to finish it because I was so fascinated with the story. It is fast-paced and to-the-point, but contains all the little details that make the whole book seem real. It also helps immensely that the author is obviously a true horseperson herself. I am frequently disappointed by authors that write about horses when it is plain that they know nothing about them, but Gruen clearly knows her stuff.
I also liked the fact that the heroine here is a very real person. She is not a perfect woman beset by circumstances entirely beyond her control, but has her own faults as well.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
It's a wonderful story for a horse-loving adult!
Published 1 month ago by Janice Mitchell
2.0 out of 5 stars Meh...
I liked the writing style - very easy to read. But the main character I found frustrating and so unlikeable, that I just could not enjoy reading this book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Deesnowboard
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, good writing, great story with an unbelievable turn of events, kept me captivated the whole way through.
Published 2 months ago by Lynn Gordon
5.0 out of 5 stars Healing Power of Horse Love
I read this book shortly after it was released, which was coincidentally shortly after my own beloved Dillinger, a horse I owned and raised for 18 years died. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Patricia Connolly
3.0 out of 5 stars ok
I had a hard time with this book. It took me a long time to start to enjoy it and I did not end up finishing it.
Published 19 months ago by Elizabeth Miron
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay book
I read this after reading Water for Elephants so it was a bit of a letdown. Very simple to read with not much substance.
Published 20 months ago by dufferingirl
2.0 out of 5 stars Major Disappointment
I loved "Water for Elephants" and was looking forward to another captivating read by Sara Gruen.

I was hugely disappointed to find that this reads like a drug store... Read more
Published on Jan. 12 2011 by S Walker
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating and emotional story,
I had to shed a tear or two while I was reading "Riding Lessons" You wouldn't think that when by the title of the book, but whether you are a horse lover or have ridden on a horse,... Read more
Published on Dec 12 2010 by Jordan L. Wares
3.0 out of 5 stars unlikable protagonist
I found it very difficult to feel compassion for the main character in this book. She was 37 but acted like a spoiled teenager much of the time, and expected her daughter, who was... Read more
Published on May 6 2009 by A. Houston
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
After reading "Water for Elephants" I was looking forward to reading
another book by this author but to my disappointment this book was awful. Read more
Published on July 19 2008 by Carol Paterson
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